Trees have played a critical role in maintaining safe levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere for millions of years.
Trees remove and store CO2 from the atmosphere as they grow. They do this by the process of photosynthesis i.e. they use the energy from sunlight to produce sugar, which cellular respiration converts into ATP, the "fuel" used by all living things.
Trees play an important role in addressing climate change and assisting our agricultural areas to be more sustainable. They do this by helping to reduce atmospheric CO2 levels. They can also assist in preventing salinity and soil erosion, provide shade, shelter, food and habitat to native animals.
Carbon Neutral is committed to helping to restore biodiversity in the areas we plant.
The World’s Forests and Carbon
At present the world is covered by approximately 30% forest or less than 4 billion hectares. This is at least one third less than before the dawn of agriculture. Global deforestation continues at around 13 million hectares per year. Mankind needs to replant the earth to restore balance.
Trees quite literally form the foundations of many natural systems. They help to conserve soil and water, control avalanches, prevent desertification, protect coastal areas and stabilize sand dunes. Forests are the most important repositories of terrestrial biological biodiversity, housing up to 90 per cent of known terrestrial species.
Trees and shrubs play a vital role in the daily life of rural communities. They provide sources of timber for fuel, wood, food, fodder, essential oils, gums, resins and latex, medicines and shade. Forest animals have a vital role in forest ecology such as pollination, seed dispersal and germination.
Carbon in forest biomass decreased in Africa, Asia and South America in the period 1990–2005. For the world as a whole, carbon stocks in forest biomass decreased annually by 1.1 Gigatonne of carbon (equivalent to 4 billion 25kg sacks of charcoal).
The loss of natural forests around the world contributes more to global emissions each year than the transport sector. Curbing deforestation is a highly cost-effective way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Terrestrial ecosystems store almost three times as much carbon as is in the atmosphere.
Tropical and boreal forests represent the largest stores.
The maintenance of existing carbon reservoirs is among the highest priorities in striving for climate change mitigation.
Currently the world’s ecosystems, instead of maintaining and enhancing nature’s carbon capture and storage capacity, are being depleted at an alarming rate. Some 20 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions are coming from the clearing and burning of forests, the vast carbon bank in peatlands and the tundra are threatened by drainage and thawing and many agricultural soils are degraded or degrading.
Safeguarding and restoring carbon in three systems – forests, peatlands and agriculture might over the coming decades reduce well over 50 gigatonnes of carbon emissions that would otherwise enter the atmosphere: others like grasslands and coastal ones such as mangroves are capable of playing their part too.
The multiple benefits of such investments range from improved lives and livelihoods, employment in areas such as conservation, management, monitoring and rehabilitation alongside reversing the rate of loss of biodiversity and improved water supplies up to the stabilization of precious soils.
Australia’s Biodiversity in a Changing Climate
Australia‘s biodiversity is globally significant. Between 7 and 10 per cent of all species on Earth live in Australia (Steffen et al. 2009).
More than 90 per cent of Australia‘s flowering plants, reptiles and frogs, 87 per cent of mammals and 45 per cent of birds are found nowhere else (Chapman 2009).
Future impacts of climate change on Australia‘s biodiversity are expected to be severe. Biodiversity was assessed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in its 2007 Fourth Assessment Report to be the most vulnerable sector in Australia (IPCC 2007).
Carbon and Biodiversity Co-benefits
In encouraging biosequestration, a carbon price may not lead to improvements in biodiversity. While the conservation or restoration of a native forest or woodland might support the establishment of a rich and diverse ecosystem, the mass planting of a single species of tree would obviously not provide the same range of benefits to biodiversity. There is a place for monoculture plantings, including plantations for timber or biomass energy, however, the sequestration and biodiversity effects need to be valued separately.
Carbon Neutral works to enhance biodiversity and specialises in native tree planting carbon offsets.
Sources and Resources
The natural fix - the role of ecosystems in climate mitigation (UNEP)